June 24, 2013

... Southwestern Quinoa Salad

I'm becoming quite a fan of quinoa.  My first foray was the Superfood Salad, which I've made several times since.  I also made a Mediterranean version... unfortunately (for you) I ate it too quickly to write a post about it.  I'll make it again soon... promise!  The beauty about these salads is that they're quick and easy to make, they're pretty darn inexpensive (I made this one for less than $10), and they're good for you.  Win. Win. Win.


This one takes great southwestern flavors - avocado, red bell pepper, cilantro, black beans - and blends them together in a terrific salad that would be perfect as an entree or a side dish.  The cumin-lime dressing really brings it all together.


I've also started making my own tortilla chips.  I go back and forth between corn and flour tortillas.  Corn is better for you, but you don't come home with an obnoxious amount of tortillas if you buy flour.  Either way you go, you follow the same simple steps.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Brush the tortillas with a little olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt.  I like to add other seasonings to mine, too... a little cayenne pepper this time.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, but keep an eye on them because they'll brown pretty quickly.  They take a little (and I mean little) more time than opening a bag of store bought chips might, but just think of all the flavor combinations you can create!


Southwestern Quinoa Salad
serves 4-6

1 cup dry quinoa
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1 avocado, chopped into chunks
handful of cherry (quartered) or grape tomatoes (halved)
1/2 red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
1 red bell pepper, chopped into chunks
small handful cilantro, diced
juice from one lime
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
salt, to taste

Cook quinoa according to package directions.

While the quinoa is cooking, prepare all other ingredients.  Prepare the dressing by combining the lime juice, oil, cumin, and salt.  Whisk it until combined.  Adjust seasoning as necessary.

When the quinoa has finished cooking, remove it from the heat and fluff it with a fork.  Add black beans and toss to warm them through.

Let the quinoa cool for about five minutes and then add all the remaining ingredients, including the dressing, and mix.  Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Taylor's Notes:
It's as simple as that.  What's so great about this recipe is that it'll keep in your refrigerator for a week... if you don't eat it before then!  

Enjoy!

June 23, 2013

... Potato Frittata with Feta and Scallions

I realize I've been a little M.I.A. lately.  It's partially because I've just moved (if 7 months ago qualifies) and I've been busy with updating the house, getting settled, and waiting for my new dining room furniture to arrive.  Now that it has (hip hip hooray!!), I've been enjoying entertaining friends and family.  Today I got to host my dad, brother-in-law, nephew, and Grandma and Dale.  As breakfast / brunch is one of my most favorite meals, I'd say this might turn into a bit of a ritual.


Somewhat traditional breakfast ingredients - potatoes, eggs, bacon - are taken up a notch in a delicious frittata.  While the potatoes are roasting, take a few extra minutes to add Cinnamon Brown Butter Puffs and fresh fruit to the menu.



I don't mean to brag, but check out that frittata!  It was pretty darn tasty, but I'm convinced that what made it so good was the skillet.  I was lucky enough to get to use my Grandpa Jack's cast iron skillet (thanks for the loan, Dad!).  Whether you have a well-seasoned, well-loved skillet or a new one, I have no doubt your frittata will be a success, too.

Potato Frittata with Feta and Scallions
serves 6-8

3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1 3/4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
1/2 teaspoon table salt, plus more for roasting potatoes
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 pound bacon, thick-cut, cut crosswise into 1/4" matchsticks
1/2 bunch (about 3 or 4) scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
2/3 cup crumbled Feta cheese
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk or cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Coat a roasting pan or baking tray generously with oil, about 1 to 2 tablespoons.  Peel potatoes, and cut them into 1/4" - 1/2" slices, then halve them lengthwise into half-circle shapes.  Pile them in the prepared pan, and generously season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Don't worry if they don't fall into one layer - the combo of some steamy / softer and some crisp-edged potatoes will work great in this dish.  Roast 30 minutes, or until potatoes are mostly cooked (they'll finish cooking with the eggs), tossing once halfway through.  Let cool slightly.

Cook bacon in well-seasoned 9" cast iron frying pan until crisp.  Scoop out with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.  Add additional tablespoon oil to the bacon drippings in the pan, and reheat it over medium heat.  Swirl the oil and drippings around in the pan and up the sides, being sure to coat it fully.

Arrange roasted potatoes in your skillet.  If there are pieces with browned undersides, flip the toasty sides up.  Scatter bacon, then scallions and feta over potatoes.  Whisk eggs with milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and several grinds of black pepper in a medium bowl, and pour over potatoes.  Cover skillet with foil and bake 20 minutes.  Remove foil, and bake another 10 to 15 minutes or until puffed at the edges and set in center.

Serve right from the skillet in 6 to 8 wedges.

Taylor's Notes:
This is another winner from Smitten Kitchen.  It doesn't look like Deb has posted it on her website, but it's in her cookbook.  Buy it if you haven't already - you won't regret it.

I used small gold potatoes rather than the Yukon Gold, solely because my grocery store only offered a 5-pound bag of Yukon Golds and one girl just doesn't need that many potatoes.  I reduced the roasting time of the potatoes by 5 minutes, but other than that I followed the recipe.  And really, when it comes to recipes that come out of the Smitten Kitchen, that's exactly what you should do.

Enjoy!

... Berry Parfait

Summer has officially arrived (well, let's be honest, it arrived before it was actually 'official').  Although I try to watch what I eat most of the year, there's something about swimsuit season that really brings it home.  I refuse to give up desserts, though, no matter what time of year it is.  This one may not be entirely healthy, but it's certainly not completely guilt-inducing.  


Berry Parfait
serves 6 (individual) or 12 (in one pan)

Crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (1 1/2 sleeves of graham crackers, crushed)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well.  Press firmly in a 9"x13" baking dish (or individual parfait cups) and bake for 8 minutes at 350 degrees.  Cool.

Filling:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cold milk
8 oz Cool Whip, thawed

Beat cream cheese with sugar and milk until smooth; fold in Cool Whip.

Topping:
Berries!  Berries!  Berries!  I used one container each of strawberries and blueberries.

Spread filling mixture over graham cracker crust.  Top with berries.  Add a dollop of plain Cool Whip and a sprig of mint as garnish.

Taylor's Notes:
I've mentioned Pinterest a time or two, yes?  This recipe is an adaptation of one I  pinned.  I've linked the original recipe there, but I left out the vanilla pudding aspect of that recipe.  To me, it seemed like a little too much and I chose to make the berries shine rather than have them coated with pudding.  To pudding or not to pudding... that is your choice.  

Enjoy!

May 8, 2013

... Salted Peanut Butter Cups

I think I'm in love.  I have been for a while, really, and it's one of those loves that will last a lifetime.  Taylor + peanut butter + chocolate... what a wonderful relationship we have.  So you have to know that when I came across this recipe for making my own peanut butter cups... and salted (!) no less, I was all over it.


{reference my notes below for an explanation of that glob of chocolate...}


I mean honestly, how can you look at that and not be in love?  Here's the problem, though.  These babies are so easy to make, with ingredients that you likely have on hand (or am I the only one who stock piles peanut butter and chocolate chips?), that you'll probably fall in love soon, too.  Hey, don't say I didn't warn you.

My friend Kerstin introduced me to these via the blog A House in the Hills.  It's a beautiful blog - check it out when you have some time!  The recipe on the blog, however, is vegan.  I'm absolutely not saying there's anything wrong with that, but I did tweak my version of the recipe and it's most certainly not vegan.  Here's my version...

Salted Peanut Butter Cups
serves makes 24 cups

1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup peanut butter (I missed the 'crunchy' part of her ingredient... I recommend that you use it!)
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup raw sugar
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
sea salt to sprinkle on top

Line a mini muffin tin with papers.  You certainly could use a regular size muffin tin, but I'm warning you, these babies are sweet and rich... More power to you if you can eat a regular size!

Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat and then stir in the peanut butter, graham cracker crumbs, and sugar.  When it's melted and mixed, spoon the mixture into the muffin tins.

In a separate pan, combine the chocolate and milk.  Stir over medium heat until the chocolate has melted.

Spoon the chocolate over the peanut butter, filling the papers almost to the top.

Sprinkle with sea salt and then refrigerate.

Taylor's Notes:
Ok, like I mentioned, mine aren't vegan or good for you (well, not good in terms of healthy at least), but man... they are delicious.  Here are a few things I found... 

  • The peanut butter mixture didn't set up on it's own (refer to picture above where the chocolate started sinking into the peanut butter).  I ended up sticking them in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes or so before I poured the rest of the chocolate on.
  • I do think that actually using crunchy peanut butter may have helped that.  I suppose I'll have to make them again to try out that theory.  Darn.
  • I made another half-batch of chocolate based on Sarah's notes.  You can tell how that affected the peanut butter to chocolate ratio.  You can definitely play with it based on how you like your chocolate and peanut butter to play together.
  • These are best eaten right out of the refrigerator.  Actually, better yet, out of the freezer.  I served them at a party and the longer they sat out, they got a little soft and were kind of difficult to eat.  
Other than that, these are way too easy to make and I'm going to try to forget that I ever made them.  Yeah right.

Enjoy!

Side note... Baxter's face looked exactly like this the entire time I was making these.  He's a huge fan of peanut butter, too.  I'm sure he'd love chocolate as much as me, too, if I'd let him...


... Linguine with Shrimp Scampi

This may be one of the quickest and easiest pasta recipes to make.  And when you have a night full of catching up with an old friend planned, quick and easy is the best way to go.


A little pre-get together prep and you'll be well on your way to getting the scoop on what's been happening over the last couple months.  


Shrimp pasta is the perfect meal for spending the least amount of time in the kitchen possible.  They both cook up very quickly.  Keep your eye on those shrimp, as soon as they're pink, they're ready!


serves 4

vegetable oil
kosher salt
1 1/2 lbs linguine
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
5 tablespoons good olive oil
3 tablespoons minced garlic (9 cloves)
2 lbs large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
grated zest of one lemon
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 lemons)
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced in half-rounds
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

Drizzle some oil in a large pot of boiling salted water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the linguine, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or according to the directions on the package.

Meanwhile, in another large, heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic.  Saute for 1 minute.  Be careful, the garlic burns easily!  Add the shrimp, 1 tablespoon of salt, and the pepper and saute until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 5 minutes, stirring often.  Remove from the heat, add the parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon slices, and red pepper flakes.  Toss to combine.

When the pasta is done, drain the cooked linguine and put it back in the pot.  Immediately add the shrimp and sauce, toss well, and serve.

Taylor's Notes:
I would add a little salt to this and / or a few more shakes of the red pepper flakes.  But, you know, I like it spicy so proceed at your own risk!  We had this with some crusty French bread and a nice red wine.  Hey, what's girls night without a little vino?  And, in case you were wondering, yes, I found this recipe on Pinterest.  I'm telling you, it's the best site since, well... I don't know what.  But it's good.  If you're on it, check out my 'foodie' board for recipes I'm planning to try and my 'check list' board for recipes I've already tried... and my comments about them :)  

Enjoy!

February 4, 2013

... Chicken and Black Bean Nachos

Besides the company I had and Beyonce's half-time performance, this was one of the major highlights of Super Bowl XLVII (or 2013 for those of you who, like me, can't keep track of all the Roman numerals).  It certainly kept us preoccupied during the black out.


I found the recipe on Pinterest and am so glad I did.  I know, Shock! Awe! Taylor made a recipe from Pinterest!  Not only was it quick and easy to put together, it was delicious and even "healthier" than standard nachos.  And that'll make you feel a little less guilty about chowing down on nachos while watching Beyonce rock it in a skin tight leather number.

Chicken and Black Bean Nachos
serves 6 appetizer portions

6 oz tortilla chips
1 can (16 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
1 cup cooked chicken, shredded
1/2 red onion, diced
juice of 2 limes
1/2 cup light sour cream
chopped cilantro
salsa (either fresh or your favorite bottled salsa)
pickled jalapenos

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Arrange the chips in a single layer on a large baking sheet.  Spoon the beans evenly over the chips, then top with the cheese, chicken, and onion.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is fully melted and bubbling.  Remove.

Combine the lime juice, sour cream, and cilantro.  Spoon over the nachos.  Top with the salsa and jalapenos.

Taylor's Notes:
Hello Rotisserie Chicken!  It's been a while, but one of my favorite short-cuts is back and perfect in this quick and easy recipe.  The sour cream / cilantro mixture was really great on top, but you could certainly leave the cilantro out if you don't like that sort of thing.  

Enjoy!

... Mango Salsa

Look at this gorgeous color!  Doesn't it look like Summer?  Or at least Florida in the winter?  Regardless of the time of year or location you're in, if you can find a ripe mango you should make this salsa.


And then put it on fish like this...


serves 2-4

1 large ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients, except the s&p, and toss well.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Taylor's Notes:
Again, Mom made this one.  It was the perfect topping for fresh caught Florida Grouper.  It was also great as a snack with tortilla chips the next day.  It'd be great on several types of fish, shrimp, scallops, even chicken.

Know what else is great?  This... for dessert.


Enjoy!

*Please excuse my use of Instagram photos... the food really was beautiful and delicious even without the filters...